Can you say opportunity? – graylink featured in The Star Workplace, August 2009
Can you say opportunity?
Social networking sites are the new recruitment platform.
Professional recruiters have started using social networking platforms such as Facebook, Orkut, MySpace and Linkedin, to hunt for candidates. These sites are also helping job hunters market themselves online by providing potential employers with access to profiles, work history and specific skills lists.
Social networking platforms are web based services focused on building online communities of people who share interests and activities by giving them various ways to interact with each other such as via e-mail or instant messaging services.
According to a study by Chicago-based job board, CareerBuilder.com, one in five employers in the US use social networks to research information about job candidates.
While South African companies are slower on the uptake, this trend is gathering momentum as people explore the uses of social networks beyond friendship connections. “The more savvy South African recruiters are already getting into social networks as a new way to hunt talent,” says Mark Gray, head of HR recruitment and technology company, Graylink. “When done correctly, recruitment via social networking platforms can be a more effective and inexpensive way to reach and engage relevant talent than traditional methods’.
The social networking site with the biggest South African audience is Facebook with nearly one million local users across all age groups and demographics. Linkedin, a professional version of the more social Facebook, has a smaller, more targeted community of business executives.
Using keywords to search these sites, recruiters can scrape the entire network to dig out high-quality candidates that cannot be found elsewhere. These candidates can then be contacted directly about job offers that might interest them. An advertising section on Facebook enables companies to post job advertisements to select candidates. Companies can also set up Facebook groups to create communities around a shared interest, simultaneously using it to find talent.
Job seekers can use social networks for personal branding. “The starting point is to develop an online profile that is authentic to you. The next step is to load this with information, defining you as an individual, that will interest employers and give them a good idea of what you’re about,” says Gray, who emphasises that your personal brand promise has to be true to avoid disconnect between the image you are trying to project and the reality.
The kinds of conversations you are having online can further reinforce the brand you are putting out. For example, Linkedin has a very active community asking and answering questions. As a member of Linkedin you are able to impart knowledge and expertise, positioning yourself as an expert on a certain subject. Linkedin further allows you to list previous employers. By getting them to act as references for you, these endorsements are a great way to confirm your expertise and prove you are who you say you are.”
But, using social networks for recruitment and personal branding is not as easy as just posting a notice somewhere and hoping for the best.
Recruiters need to understand what the business need is, what each social service provides in terms of service to the users and intelligence to the recruiter, and which service their desired candidate audience is actively using.
The right network also depends on the job function, with senior and specialist skills requiring niche networks. Designmind (www.designmind.co.za) is the perfect place to source a candidate from the building industry while Huddlemind (www.huddlemind.net) would be better for sourcing a corporate trainer. In the same way that recruiters turn to niche publications to advertise jobs, not every social media site will work for a particular job requirement.
Moreover, the message must be relevant to candidates and be interesting enough for them to pursue. “Gone are the days where job advertising was all about what the business needed. Its now about what the business can do for the candidate and the good ones don’t want to be bored to death by a job description,” says Gray.
Social networking is a double-edged sword for job seekers. Many job seekers have expressed outrage at companies rejecting them for jobs despite having the right skills after learning about their dubious personal lives online. Personal branding is about presenting and authentic and consistent set of values. If there’s a discrepancy in the view candidates try to present of themselves and what is reflected online, it can work against them.
The next step of the evolution of personal online branding will be to improve the quality of one’s connections and really build relationships, as often, online relationships are flat with people merely adding more online friends.
“People are becoming more connected to a broader network of people through online platforms,” says Gray. “For job seekers and employers to remain competitive, they have to start getting more active around marketing themselves on social networks.”
How to get the most out of Linkedin:
- Max your profile – Make your profile as detailed as possible with relevant information. This includes providing an overview of your work expertise and core areas of specialisation. If you’d like to be approached about job offers, the contact settings at the bottom of the profile section enable you to tick whether you’re interested in job enquiries and career opportunities.
- Box clever – Make the position descriptions as interesting as possible and ensure relevant information is provided in your profile to sell yourself to prospective employers. By using the same keywords which recruiters may use in their searches, you have a greater chance of being found. For example, IT workers with Java mobile development skills might want to specify this in their profiles, allowing recruiters looking for this particular skill to find them through basic keyword searches.
- Get recommendations – Add some recommendations to your profile by sending a message to the contacts in your network asking them to vouch for your expertise in a certain area. This is very useful on a job-by-job basis to prove key capabilities. These endorsements give you a good online presence as people have personally recommended you. The more endorsements the better.
- Connect – The greater the number of connections, the better your network, as this increases the chances that you will share a connection with someone. A big network also exponentially increases you second and third level networks based on introductions to new people by a shared contact. This is especially important to employers, as many people do not make their profiles public.
- Ask & answer questions – This section, broken down into different categories, enables you to establish yourself as a go-to person on a certain topic. For example, someone can ask a question about business development which anyone can answer. The more you answer questions, the more this adds to your profile, eliciting invitations from others to join their networks. This is ideal place for recruiters who are looking for subject matter experts to find them.
- Join a group – Become a member of different groups or start your own, based on your expertise in a specific area. For example, “Green” is a group for anyone who would like to share their ideas on the environment, climate change and renewable energy. The more exposure you achieve, the bigger your profile and chance of joining other networks, and the more possible employers there are for you to speak to.
- Become a LION – Build a network quickly by becoming a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION). This describes that you’re open to accept invites from anyone (even those you don’t know). Those with 500+ friends are often people who work in this way. By joining this group, you will be able to interact with 4000+ other LION participants. By being introduced to someone through a connection, this vote of confidence makes people more receptive to advances.
- Create your own page – Companies can create their own page to stimulate interest in the organisation. This also allows companies to identify top candidates working at other companies. Job seekers can perform an advanced search on a specific company for a wealth of information such as size, location, and rate of turnover. Connecting with former employees will enable more candid opinions about a company’s prospects than from someone who’s still on board.
- Research people – Perform a name search or an advanced people search with specific keywords to find a number of people to add to your network or approach with job opportunities. For example, a search for accountants in South Africa yields 442 results. You can also see their connections. If you know a mutual person, you could find out what they are like, or look up their number and call them personally. Do a lot of research very quickly and find people of value to me.
- Paid access – A number of paid-for corporate solutions are also available to recruiters to increase database access and visibility. For example, you can add job adverts to LinkedIn, which are served to candidates with matching profiles. Inmail allows you to directly contact up to 50 people in the network, which is much faster than working through their networks. Superior access search further allows companies to get deeper database access, without any personal network restrictions.
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